“I got by OK”

The final diagnosis came this Thursday morning for Marc Sarreau. Involved in the heavy crash that concluded the first stage of the Tour of Poland yesterday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team’s sprinter suffers from an acromioclavicular dislocation as well as multiple burns. Before returning to France, the 2019 French Cup winner took a few minutes to give us some news.

Marc, how are you feeling this morning?

I’m not doing too bad. I got back quite late from the hospital, around 1am. I didn’t have the best night ever, but it was okay, I still managed to get some sleep. It feels good, but let’s hope the next few nights will be better. A shoulder injury is always painful, but given the crash’s speed and violence, I got by OK.

Can you tell us how you personally experienced this final?

There were a lot of crashes. I personally had already crashed with twenty kilometers to go, but without consequences. A few more crash then occurred in the peloton before the finish, which I knew pretty well. I have been doing the Tour of Poland for three years now, I know that the Katowice sprint is fast and that one wave, as slight as it might be, can do damage. We ride at 80 km/h, so it can be fatal. It’s obviously a bit scary but it’s our job… Benjamin Thomas placed me well ahead of the sprint and I managed to get the wheels of Fabio Jakobsen and Dylan Groenewegen. Then the footage speaks for itself. Jakobsen gets boxed in, falls on the barriers, which came to knock me down first, then the other riders coming at 80km/h and unable to avoid them. Everything is going very fast. We’re full gas and there’s adrenaline. I saw my opponents ahead and understood that it was going to be impossible to get back on them. I just tried to take their drafting but when I saw them battling on the right side, I thought that they could go down if their handlebars happened to hit each other. I instinctively went to the left and that allowed me to avoid their crash, but it was the barrier that caught me up afterwards. Considering the speed we were going at, I eventually think there weren’t that many riders on the ground…

Do you think there is a problem with this sprint finish?

We notice this finish because there was an accident, but there are several chaotic finishes during the year, either because of the road we come from, the roads in the city centre, the narrowings, the bottlenecks etc… The accident happened yesterday but this sprint has been contested for several years. The most unfortunate part of all this is that we still ride on beautiful roads, outside the city centre. There is a possibility to finish a little further or a little earlier, on a beautiful avenue, rather than on a descent as it is now. Even sportingly, the result does not necessarily say much about the true level of each rider. My Power Sensor recorded an 81.7 km/h peak yesterday. It’s a special sprint. We voluntarily put a bigger gear that day. It’s also difficult to stand on your pedals because there is so much speed that you are not aerodynamic at all. It’s always a special day on the Tour of Poland.

Can you tell us about the first moments after the crash?

I was a little stunned. I immediately thought about protecting my head because I knew there were lots of riders coming and I was afraid they would hit me. After a few seconds, when I saw it was calmer, I tried to catch my breath and sit up. I couldn’t do it. I was a little stunned, but I did not lose consciousness. Then my first teammates arrived and I got up very slowly in order to recover. I felt I was in pain but I wasn’t sure where. I was then put in the ambulance and went to the hospital with the team doctor for a scan and x-rays.

What is bigger this morning: the frustration of not being able to compete for a few weeks or the relief of escaping more serious injuries?

There is a bit of both. With a clear head, given the speed at which the crash occurred and knowing the serious injuries some experienced, a shoulder injury is not much. It’s almost normal for a cyclist. On the other hand, when it’s been five months since you haven’t raced, that you trained hard for this, did a lot of preparation and got involved mentally, it’s frustrating to only do a race and a quarter (he had also competed in the Strade Bianche, note). Especially since I noticed the legs were good yesterday. I couldn’t wait to fight again, sprint again and there were some great goals in this second part of the season. I would have preferred to race but I will suffer in silence and I think I will have time to come back before the end of the season, though I don’t know much about the recovery time yet. I obviously also think to Fabio Jakobsen today. We don’t wish that to anyone. Never. It is unfortunate that accidents like this happen. It’s scary. Even though it’s how the sprint is and there are a lot of stakes and risks, it’s still unfortunate when it ends like this. We hope for the best and that he will come out of the coma quickly and will be able to recover peacefully afterwards.